Ester Marsh: Heat is dangerous

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 6, 2011

Q= How can I prevent myself from getting heat exhaustion while exercising outside?
A= It is that time of year again to refresh everyone’s knowledge about running and playing sports in hot weather, or even just being out in it. The most important factor is to remember to take it easy when running or exercising in hot conditions. Even the most well conditioned athletes have to be careful; although the more fit a person is, the better that person can cope with running in hot weather. Even climate preference, some people can handle hot a lot better than cold. I am one of them and love this hot weather. The best time of the day to run, exercise, or have practice during periods of extreme hot weather are early in the morning before the sun rises, or late at night after the sun has disappeared. With the high humidity in Rowan County it is better to run or practice in the morning since humidity gets worse throughout the day. If it is unavoidable to practice (and for most school age kids it is) at these times, run or practice in shaded areas such as trails and fields surrounded by trees. Avoid running on long, open blacktop roads. The dark surfaces of the roads absorb heat and causes hotter conditions. When running on a hot track, take plenty of brakes in the shaded area near bleacher or even under it and hydrate.
Now, as an individual you can run on an indoor track or treadmills or take group exercise classes that are located in a well air conditioned area.
When running, run small circuits close to where you start. Therefore, if you start to feel the affects of the heat you can stop before causing serious damage to your health. When you are running or exercising in hot weather it is advisable to wear lightweight and light colored outfits. Outfits with the words “cool-max” or “dri-fit” are great. They stay a lot dryer and they are very lightweight.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! All participants exercising in heat should abundantly hydrate themselves before the start of their practice. (Remember, when you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.) The longer the distance or the practice, the more fluid is lost. The runner should attempt to drink throughout their workout. Some runners are able to run with back packs that are designed for runners. Or plan your route so that you have water fountains/ bottles available on a regular basis. Bring coolers to the practice with cold water and sports drinks.
Likewise, it is important to drink after your practice to keep the body hydrated. Hot, humid conditions promote sweating, which in return can cause dehydration. Sweating is good for you because it cools your body. But when you lose too much water you become dehydrated.
Remember that some decongestants, such as ones allergy sufferers might take, can also contribute to dehydration; likewise for other popular beverages such as coffee and alcohol.
Don’t expect that you can make up for several days of not drinking enough by downing two cups of a sports drink before your next long run, race or game.
The average (sedentary) person needs around eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day. Athletes need more, at least sixteen 8 ounce glasses daily.
Two hours before your daily summer workout, race or game, you should drink 16 ounces of fluid.
Ten minutes before you start, drink another one or two cups of water or a sports drink. Drinking early and drinking often is the key. It is advised you should drink immediately after finishing your workout (in intervals) Advised is a minimum of 16 ounces for every 30 minutes you exercised.
If you don’t, the following could happen:
* Heat cramps= a very painful cramp that rarely “work themselves out”.
What to do:
-Stop running/ exercising
– Drink fluids immediately (Sports drinks as well as water)
– Massage the muscles once the pain begins to subside.
– Cool your body with wet towel
– Get out of the sun!
* Heat exhaustion= very serious and can lead to heat stroke. Symptoms are:
– Dizziness and “goose bumps”
– Nausea (sometimes accompanied with vomiting)
– Moderate to a severe headache
– Weak legs
– Lack of coordination
– Rapid pulse
– Heavy sweating often accompanied by moist and cold skin
– Muscle cramping
What to do:
– Stop running/ exercising
– get medical attention
– Get out of the sun
– Drink large amount of fluids (in intervals), including sports drinks.
– Lie down and elevate your feet above your heart.
– loosen clothing.
* Heat stroke (Which can be fatal!) Unfortunately athletes will sometimes ignore the symptoms of heat exhaustion and will continue to push themselves until they are nearing a total thermoregulatory breakdown. Symptoms are very similar to those of heat exhaustion, but rapidly progress to:
– Disorientation
– Weakness in the legs to the point that the runner may fall
– Strange behavior
– “Fuzzy” thinking
– Rapid pulse
– Hot/dry skin
– Body temp of 104 or higher
– Lack of consciousness
– Convulsions or seizures
– Coma
Someone suffering a heat stroke needs immediate medical attention. They should be moved out of the sun, cooled by either rubbing their body with ice or immersing them in cold water and given fluids intravenously.
So please follow the recommendations to stay hydrated and “cool”. If you don’t you are not doing this for your health anymore..
Ester H Marsh ACSM Cpt